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Hotline On Call

Kentucky Governor's Obamacare Advocacy Could Help Mitch McConnell

Gov. Steve Beshear is an outspoken champion of the law, but his party's Senate nominee isn't as publicly enthusiastic.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is a rare red-state Democratic champion of Obamacare.(Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/GettyImages)

photo of Sarah Mimms
October 3, 2013

As one of the few red-state governors to set up a state-run health exchange, Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is taking a prominent role in touting the Affordable Care Act, putting him at odds with Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has stayed relatively silent on the law in the early months of her Senate campaign.

Grimes, who is running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has said little about the new law as she tries to distance herself from an administration that remains unpopular in her home state. Like many other red state Democrats, she has said that she opposes full repeal and would like to fix certain areas of the law, but Grimes has yet to get specific on what changes she would make. Republicans and the local press are continuing to press her on the issue and with one of her campaign's top surrogates praising the law, that pressure is only likely to grow.

In a New York Times op-ed published last weekend headlined "My State Needs Obamacare. Now," Beshear urged the law's opponents to "get over it and get out of the way so I can help my people." Left unmentioned was McConnell.

 

Beshear hasn't become any less shy in the last few days, singing the law's praises on television, radio and in a speech in Washington on Thursday. "We've got the naysayers out here. They keep saying this will be a trainwreck. Well, they're on the wrong train because this thing, so far, is a huge success," Beshear said today in a speech at a health care symposium sponsored by the National Journal this afternoon.

Beshear has been a vocal supporter of Grimes' campaign, and has already appeared at campaign events on her behalf. The more outspoken he is in his support for the law, the more pressure will be put on Grimes to take a firm stand. But Beshear said that he isn't worried about the Affordable Care Act weighing down Grimes' campaign.

Asked whether he thought the law would be a liability for Grimes, Beshear told the National Journal's Ron Brownstein: "I agree with you that it will probably be an issue in 2014. But I disagree with you that it will be a liability in 2014. If things continue to go as they are going right now, and people kind of open up to this, like they're doing and listen and educate themselves … the more people do that, the more people see, 'Oh my God, the world is not ending like these people said.'"

In a brief interview with Hotline On Call, Beshear wouldn't say whether he has specifically discussed the Affordable Care Act with Grimes, but said that she'll likely address it more later on in the campaign. For now, he said, her focus should be elsewhere. "I've advised her to raise money," he said.

Grimes does have some catching up to do. McConnell had almost $10 million in the bank at the end of June, before she even entered the race. Third quarter fundraising reports are due on Oct. 15 and will be the first real test of Grimes' strength as a Senate candidate.

"I think she'll have a good report. … From a news media standpoint it won't be enough -- it'll never be enough … but I think it'll be good," Beshear told On Call.

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